Winter's setting in..

And I find myself retreating. 

Apologies, but this will be a slightly rambling post. It's my mood. It's the season. It's been sparked by a book.  

It's also cyclical. I take after my mother in this way. I need the end of year to myself. I'm mostly an extrovert but only because I allow myself the time to be introverted. 

It's not that I want to stay inside all day. I need to be outside. I'll find any excuse to get out of the apartment. But I won't want to be with people, well, many people. One or two is fine. My brain can't cope with too much company, the noise of conversation jumbles up in my head and I can't hear words properly. 

I've just finished reading Planetfall by Emma Newman (note: I know Emma and she is delightful). It's a wonderful book. It's sci-fi, both intimate and epic. And I'm glad I read this week. The themes of the book resonated with me in a way I don't think they would have in May or June, when my brain is full of leafy green and sky blue. It's strange the way books sometimes match your moods.. an odd kind of pathetic fallacy (one of my favourite phrases from junior cert english). There are books I read when I am in need of a feeling. Guy Gavrial Kay is my go-to for when my heart needs to break. I think Planetfall will be my intro to winter book, my book to remind me things will be ok. Even if it's not the ok I originally thought I needed. 

At the same time as I find myself pulling back from people, I am excited about christmas. I love it. I always have. Last year I was in a completely different country, where the season was celebrated in a weird way because it isn't a native tradition, but more of a recent import. The trappings were there, but the heart was somewhere else, waiting for the following week, for their own season.

I am missing that country too. Particularly it's wide open skies that seemed to go on forever. I need a sky that stretches up and out and does not weigh heavily on me. Dublin sometimes has those soaring skies, but more often it's cloudy and low. 





Anyway. It's winter now. The season is no longer coming, it's finally arrived. And it'll be ok. Even if it's not the okay I think I need. 

Doodling.. or what I do in my spare time.


In which I wax lyrical about an apple product..

When I was in Tokyo at the beginning of the year I gave in and bought an iPad.. I had been coveting one for years but couldn't justify the cost, particularly as Himself Indoors had acquired me a second hand Samsung Tablet some years previous.. but ooooh I wanted an iPad,k probably irrationally.. especially for the art apps. 

I'm a doodler. I've always doodled and will always doodle. My notes for my new job have faces and wings and scrawlings all over them. I occasionally surprise myself with something that's reasonably ok, but mostly I doodle because I can't not. 

I had seen people's work with apple apps (sadly the art apps for android are just not there yet) and pined for it. So when the iPad became somewhat affordable (by virtue of exchange rate and lack of tax) I nabbed one. I love it. I get a deep sense of satisfaction from using Art Set. It uses paper, pen, ink and paint in ways that feel wholly natural (but without my entire apartment getting speckled in oils). The thing most people don't like about it is the lack of layers. Once your paint is on the canvas, you have to go with it. But the Oils work and look like oils and the pastels are pastels and the different grades of paper give you a different result for each of the art supplies. It's just a really relaxing app to use. 

The Mermaid (a doodle by Fionnuala Murphy)

The Mermaid (a doodle by Fionnuala Murphy)

The other app I really like to use is Paper. I find it super useful in planning and brainstorming. When I was looking for a job earlier this year I used it to map out my skills and what I wanted in advance of interviews.. I bought their stylus too (called Pencil by Paper). It's the best stylus I've used. It's very intuitive and feels solid in my hand. 

I use Paper more for my old style doodling, it's a lot looser and to some degree more fun. And I get to do things like this.. 

Anyway.. my point is.. I like to doodle and occasionally technology helps.. 


Well that was Octocon

My name is Ickle_tayto and I am a geek.. It has been two days since my last convention.

Some of you may be aware that I used to organise Octocon many moons ago, and once I stepped down from the organising committee, I remained somewhat involved in it through the dealer room and the Golden Blasters and the occasional talking on panels. As a result Octocon feels like my con in a way others don't. Don't get me wrong, CONvergence remains my top con to travel to, but Octocon is my home.

This Octocon I was hardly involved with at all. I wrote a few things for the booklet and moderated a few panels, but I got to sit back from the madness and stress that is organising. I am so impressed with everything this year. The panels were super interesting and different. Not just from previous years, but also from other cons.

And.. most importantly.. the Guest of Honour was Emma Newman, who's work I love. From the Split Worlds to Tea & Jeopardy, she adds sparkle to the world. I cannot wait for Planetfall to arrive on my generic e-reader device. 

Highlights for me include:

1) Meeting Adrian Tchaikovsky, whose books I have not yet read, but now that I have conversed with him at length about mythology I will get me forthwith to a book selling establishment and spend my upcoming paycheck on them.  

2) The Tea & Jeopardy live show, where I got cake and a front of house seat by virtue of being a member of the Order of the Sacred Teacup.. C.E. Murphy was a wonderful guest and all mention of curses shall be forgotten. 

3) The random rollplaying panel which started out oddly and got even more strange, who knew Emma "Bob" Newman had trained as a medic in the Congo and can charm certain snakes as a result.. 

Sadly, even extreme snake seducing skills could not prevent her or her fellow Bobs from becoming My Little Ponies.. 

Their expression says it all. 

4) The Under the Sea TimeTraveller's Ball. It was everything you could wish from a ball. Good music, good dancing, good people and bad wine. I may have given myself mild whiplash from the Bohemian Rhapsody-ing and the Sweet Child of Mine-ing..

5) The Fanfiction panel. I came away with so many things I need to read.. I had never even heard of DrApple fic before now. .

6) The Environmental Dystopia panel. This was utterly depressing, but at the same time a super interesting panel (at least from my perspective as the moderator). The world is changing and we are not prepared. 

7) Time out knitting with Emma, Peter & Danielle - I was reaching peak-people and so the opportunity to sit quietly in the corner of the closed dealer room knitting squares was bliss. 

8) Having the house to myself when I came home. I got to catch up on my terrible television and head to bed early. 

Well done to everyone involved in organising Octocon this year. You did an amazing job. 

I can't wait for next year and what the new Chair will do, but I think that everyone knows they're losing a Chair-in-a-Million with Gar stepping down..

New Beginnings: An Ode to September

September has always been my changing month. Maybe it's to do with the school year ingrained deep in my psych. 

Picture taken by Fionnuala Murphy Sept 2015

Picture taken by Fionnuala Murphy Sept 2015

I am my happiest in the mutable seasons, Autumn and Spring. 

Twenty years ago, this month. I set off on my first Grand Adventure. As a ridiculously naive 17-year old I landed at the University of Bradford with a definite aim of being the best Director of Photography the Oscars world had ever seen. That didn't happen, but along the way I picked up life skills, an eye for detail, an ability to multitask, a surface knowledge of useless information and one of the best friends a girl could have.

Five years after that, in September, I realised that I needed to be in a country where people knew what the word 'Grand' meant. A place where people said Tuesday week, instead of a week on Tuesday. Small things. But things that were home. I needed to be home. Not home-home mind, but Dublin. Dublin - The place I have lived the longest. Probably, despite all reason, my favourite city. 

Jocelyn Bell Burnell and me (the total fan girl)

Jocelyn Bell Burnell and me (the total fan girl)

Three years ago, in September, I started my Masters in Science Communication. A course I decided on pretty quickly after spending a heady weekend in July immersed in science at the EuroScience Open Forum in the convention centre. I have no idea what I was thinking. I work in finance, an MSc in Sci Comms would be next to useless for my career, such that it was. But still.. I love to communicate, and science..

Science is wonderful. 

Last year, in September, I handed in my thesis. My hard won sweat and tears in paper form. My gods, last summer was the worst. I was barely coherent by the end. But September was a good month. September was the month I finished it and got time to think coherently about the rest of my life. Decisions were made and time out was taken. 

A year on, and those decisions have come to fruition. I start a new job on Monday and I'm also, luckily, in a position to potentially do something with my thesis research. This last year has been one of my better ones, with time spent abroad, new friendships made. and more surface knowledge acquired - although this time, hopefully, of a more useful variety. 


Restaurant Photographs - In which I am a content snob

I was out with Himself indoors last week at a reasonably upscale winebar/restaurant in Dublin.. (By reasonably upscale I mean the prices were ridiculous and the food portions were... small). While waiting for our drinks to arrive I noticed the photographs on the walls. 

Restaurant photos are usually pretty generic, one might say bland. They are there to add a background flavour to the room, but not to dominate it. These photos though were remarkable. Remarkably bad. So much so that I did remark on them, perhaps loudly.. 

In fact, their very existence is still annoying me. 

It's not that they were offensive. They were just terrible. They were both bland and badly composed. There was no story, no point of view, no reason for these photos to exist. 

But, in fairness to the nameless photographer, they have inspired me to take more photos. I have been sending Himself Indoors pictures all week with a tagline "See, even my Instagram pictures are better than that crap that was on the walls"..

Dublin is a beautiful, engaging city that deserves better. Restaurant walls deserve better.. people paying for over-priced food and drink deserve better..

I demand better art.. 


(Personal Plug: if you want to see my dublin, here's my instagram account)

Photo taken by Fionnuala Murphy, August 2015

Photo taken by Fionnuala Murphy, August 2015

Photo taken by Fionnuala Murphy, August 2015

Photo taken by Fionnuala Murphy, August 2015

New Website

So I've moved my website from my old host to this new one. It's got a swishy new design and everything. 

I've got proper sections for academic style articles, short stories, my occasional forays into art and the soon to be regularly updated Things making me Happy section. 

I've been neglecting the site a lot recently because life has gotten hectic. This should all change in a month or so when the major life changes have all happened.. 




So I'm in Japan

I love it here. Tokyo is one of the most amazing cities. It has everything a person might want. even if they didn't know they wanted it...or indeed, what it is they actually want.. 

But I've been here for a while now..I've been here long enough to get homesick. 

I was out on Tuesday night and it suddenly hit me that what I wanted more than anything else in the world was to be on a night out with my friends from home.. and not this random birthday party crowd that I happened to have been invited to because I work with a friend of a friend of the birthday girl. So I went home sad and woke up early and miserable on my day off.. not helped by the fact that the building site next to my apartment building operates from 8am even on a bank holiday (I mean WTF?).

Tired, grumpy and generally disheartened by life I headed out into Tokyo in search of breakfast.. I wanted pancakes and I had been told that Bill's in Harajuku was the place for pancakes.. So I went and queued (queuing is a thing here.. it's an artform) and I waited and after a half hour I was on the balcony of Bill's looking out on to a clear blue sky. (Score 1 for Tokyo - There is so much sky here.. and the colour is the most brilliant shade of blue). Coffee and pancakes were procured and soon all was well. 

I had decided earlier that I would head to the Meiji Jingu Shrine as it would most likely be peaceful and relaxing and I could wallow in my sad feelings. But no.. Tokyo had other ideas for me.. It turns out that the Meiji Jingu shrine is where it's at on Foundation Day. As I walked towards it, I noticed marching bands.. and flag twirlers and drumming.. lots of drumming.. 

And all of a sudden I was happy. I hadn't realised that what I needed was drums and marching bands and chaos and crowds of people just out enjoying themselves. There were other drummers, and people carrying portable shrines and just the most amazing atmosphere of utter joy. 

And did I mention the drumming?

I really want there to be teen movies about rival drumming gangs where too groups face off and there's a heist or a big show down concert where there's a drum off and the evil drumming gang loses their drums in a bet, you know, kind of like Step Up or The Fast and the Furious. 

Thank you October..

In Which I Go To Berlin...

August was a hellish month. I was a massive ball of raging stress. Work was mental and my Thesis was due at the end of it.  I got through the month by promising myself that October would make up for it. All my hard work would be rewarded in October.. And now we are in November I can honestly say - October did good. 

First up was Adacamp in Berlin. Two brand new things in one weekend: I'd never been to Berlin before, or indeed to an open tech/culture unconference. My Other Half (Himself Indoors) is German and has frequented Berlin on a number of occasions so he came over with me to give a brief whistlestop tour of all the high points. The Brandenburg Gate  - Which I wanted to  see because of Ein, Zwei, Drei (one of my favourite Billy Wilder Films), The monument to the Russian dead from World War 2 & The Holocaust Memorial - I was overwhelmed by the experience of being lost in that maze. I could see Himself Indoors at several points but couldn't catch up to him and he couldn't hear me when I called out to him. Very effecting.

After that he deposited me back at my hostel (the rather wonderful Grand Hostel, Berlin). i had a snooze before heading to the Wikimedia offices for a pre-conference social and to meet up with my partner in crime @RestlessCurator.. Some chat was had but the event ended at 9pm as the conference started at the ungodly hour of 8 AM.. 

Things that I loved about the conference, and there were many, include the opening ceremony. The organisers, @Skud & @Noirinp, were hepful and welcoming. We got to know one and other by breaking into smaller groups and talking about ourselves. I'm not going to lie, I was very nervous about this before the event. Most of the women there were highly accomplished and had been involved with open technology and open culture for years. I was more than a little intimidated. But then I met people. And they were lovely. The best bit was rediscovering my love of online Fandom. i have been involved with organising Octocon & the Golden Blasters and Gaming and so on for the last few years, but before that.. back in the heady days of the interwebs I was a fan fiction writer. I had a geocities site and everything. And at Adacamp I met my people. The people I had lost when I disappeared of the web for about 6 months. It was wonderful. 

The discussion around feminism was excellent and I got to share my love for the words of Nikki Minaj (A woman who is seriously undervalued in modern feminism). It was brilliant to sit back a listen to other people speak honestly and openly about their problems with feminism and their issues with being openly feminist in the modern world. It was good to be to have a genuine discussion about these things without people talking over each other. 

It was a great weekend, and I'm sorry it's taken me this long to write about it. 


Nerding out like a fan

I have handed in my thesis and I have time on my hands. I am not yet as Masters of Science but soon it shall be mine. 

So I aim to blog more. More particularly I aim to blog about things that I am nerding out about. Things that, in the words of Pop Culture Happy Hour, make me happy.  And what's making me happy this week? Autumn/Fall TV. Old shows are back, new shows have started. I am awash with televisual delights. 

First up: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. : After last season's big reveal about the bad guys, and the the traitor within, the titular agents are in a bad way. Essentially vigilantes, hunted by both the US army and Hydra, the team are on the back foot from the first episode of season 2. 

The thing that worried me most about this season was (*spoiler alert*) the potential treatment of Grant Ward, the sleeper Hydra agent in the team. At the end of season 1 he was taken into custody and it felt like a ball might be dropped, that they might fast track a redemption arc for him. Now I have no real issue with a redemption arc, but it's one that should be earned. But the show, at least from the first few episodes, appears to be going a different route. Grant remains manipulative. He refuses to talk to any member of the team except Skye, essentially ensuring that she has to interact with him, on his terms. I'm interested to see how this plays out. 

Gotham: I was worried about Gotham. Everything I heard implied they were going to treat the TV show as if it was in the same universe as the Christopher Nolan films (which I do not like), but the first few episodes could have been in a prequel to the Tim Burton films and I have tumbled into it's rabbit hole. The characters are over the top, the storylines are intriguing and there is an openly bisexual character, which is remarkably refreshing. And the actor (Robin Lord Taylor) playing the Penguin is utterly captivating. 

The Originals: So it may be obvious that I like my nerd-dom melodramatic. And The Originals is nothing if not melodramatic. I watched the entire first season while I was off work with a nasty cold and I LOVED it. Elijah's smile alone would keep me coming back. But it's also utterly ridiculous and unapologetic about it. Season 2 just started and already the back stabbing has begun. 

I do love me some great terrible television. 

Shamrokon.. and SCIENCE

I'm not dead.. 

and to prove it, I'm going to appear LIVE and ON PANELS at this year's Eurocon in Dublin.. 

Due to August being OH MY GODS HOW AM I GOING TO WRITE ALL OF THESE WORDS month (or thesis-writing month), I'm only going to be there on the Saturday.. 

The schedule is provisional atm but these are the panels they want me to talk on.. 
Number 1 : Science Fact: Tweets from Mars and Songs from Space..
I get to talk about Robots on Mars and the awesomeness of space.. I'm on the panel with 5 other people but I know everyone will be there to hear about me witter on about NASA JPL and their realisation that marketing isn't the worst thing in the world. 

Number 2: Science Fact: Wearable Tech..
Himself indoors is going to lend me his android watch this weekend so I will actually be able to talk about how they work with some degree of knowledge. Other people on this panel will know more than me.. I may have had a freak out about one of them.. maybe*.

Number 3: Science Fact: The Rosetta Spacecraft..
#wakeuprosetta I'm moderating this panel so I don't need to know anything. Which is great :) 

so much to science fact there. I can't wait to get talking about it. 

*This isn't like last year's CONvergence. I was on panels with super-awesome people**, but I didn't know who they were till afterwards, so no pre-panel jitters.. 

**Namely Emma Newman. If I'd read her books before CVG there's no way I'd have been that calm on the British Slang 101 panel. As it was, we got to bond over how weird american's find slang that's pretty common this side of the pond. 


2014.. Gods.. where did the time go

It's been awhile.. I know.. I've been busy with college and work and life and trying to install windows on an ubuntu machine.. gods that last one is driving me insane...

stupid gorram netbooks.. 

I am not tech savy enough to format my netbook hardrive.. and now I think I've properly foobarred it. 

ah well. I am sure I will figure it out eventually. 

So.. this year my aim is to write at least one post a week. About anything.. something in the news.. something interesting I have found online.. a book I have read.. you know.. just in general something. 

For today's post I am going to talk about the two books I have read this week (now that all of my essay's are done and I am now free to wallow in Fiction.. glorious glorious fiction..)

First up: Rose Under Fire: 

 This is a loose sequel to Code Name Verity (also known as the CRYING BOOK in my house, due to my OH waking up one Saturday morning to find me quietly sobbing beside me.. gods but Code Name Verity is a 100% gives me the FEELS book). 

And I think that was part of the problem with Rose Under Fire.. which is an excellent book.. but as I was bracing myself for the crying and sucker punch or emotion I don't think I fully invested.

It's a great book though. An interesting look at an aspect of World War 2 I think rarely gets looked at. The complexity of loyalties and friendship under such conditions are not underplayed. There is no 100% good or 100% bad here, but there is pettiness and vindictiveness and mercy and compassion and laughter and camaraderie.  And fear and hopelessness and hope and courage. 

You do not need to have read Code Name Verity to read this. And I think I would recommend reading this first, before going back to Verity.
But do read them both.

Second: Eleanor & Park


That's pretty much all I have to say on the matter. 

Read it. 

marvel at the joy and beauty of two teenagers finding each other and helping each other.. 

There is nothing bad about this book..

Just read it. 

Also.. the cover is a thing of JOY.

YA Musings..

My name is Fionnuala Murphy and I am an addict.

Books are my drug of choice. When I immerse myself in someone else’s imagination I zone out from the real world. I can’t concentrate. I sneak away for at lunch so I can read a few more chapters. I avoid people, because they might ask me to meet up, talk, do stuff. 

When I’m in the middle of a good book I can’t do anything else but read.  

I spend my time between books looking for my next hit. I prowl the young-adult, fantasy and science-fiction isles in my local bookstores. I follow my favourite authors on twitter, hoping for information on their next releases. 

I may bankrupt myself with Amazon’s One-Click button.   

Like any good addict, I have my enablers. One, in particular, has gone so far as to set up a book club to support me (and others) in my habit. 

Claire Hennessy is an author of teenage fiction, a co-owner of The Big Smoke Writing Factory, and the founder of the Grown-Ups-Read-YA Book-club.

Claire loves books. She writes them. She reads them. She waxes poetically over glasses of wine about them. When asked why she set up the book-club, her response was, “I set up the book club because a lot of what I read is YA.”

Young-Adult, a genre aimed primarily at teenagers, has captured the imaginations of those who can vote and drink legally. 

Millions have read Twilight, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter (the latter was so popular with adults that two covers were produced for the books, one for kids with a cartoonish cover, and one for adults with a more reserved, grown-up look).

Claire noticed that adult conversation surrounding the genre tends to be limited. “Many of the conversations with other adults about teen books can go down the route of 'is this suitable/appropriate for teen readers' or 'would teens like it' or 'is this really what today's teenagers like?' as opposed to 'is this a good book and what did we like about it?'”

So she decided to start a book club for people who wanted to appreciate the books for their own merit. 

The club meets monthly in members’ houses, or a quiet pub. Occasionally they have movie nights, showing films that tie in with the month’s chosen book. 

Films of YA fiction are an interesting phenomenon. Series popular with teenage girls tend to be the most successful, at least in box office terms, if not critically.

The Twilight Saga is the most well-known of these, and possibly, the most controversial. 

Movie critic Mark Kermode has spoken at length on his weekly film review show about the double standards in reviewing films or books produced for the teenage-girl market.

 In a recent Guardian column, he wrote, “the fact is that the world is full of people (many of them middle-aged men) who feel not just enabled but duty-bound to be sniffy about Twilight without having seen the films, read the books, or attempted to understand why they mean so much to so many.” 

There is a gender double standard in how these books and films are reviewed. Star Wars or The Dragon Lance fantasy novels marketed at teenage boys are just as trope-heavy as Twilight, but they’re nowhere near as reviled. In fact, Star Wars is loved to the point of madness. 

Laura Cassidy, author of Angel Kiss and Eighteen Kisses, has been a Twilight fan from the beginning. She sees the influence of the franchise on other YA books as a good thing. “I think there is a new breed of female lead emerging in YA - strong, fiercely independent girls like Katniss in The Hunger Games,” she told me. “it seems like this new breed was almost like a rebellion against the character of Bella in Twilight, the series that was responsible for the explosion in popularity of teenage fiction.“

I can’t claim to like the Twilight novels, but they’re no worse than the Virginia Andrews novels I read when I was 14. 

Twilight, and other books like it, has encouraged millions of young people to read. 

Which can’t be a bad thing, can it? 

Well, unless they end up like me, an addict, pining for my next adventure inside somebody else’s head.